Observations On The IndyCar Family

Posted in IndyCar on July 25, 2016 by Oilpressure

Last week, the Verizon IndyCar Series lost a member of their family that most of us had never heard of. Jenny Nickell was a producer for NBCSN and had worked in the business of televising IndyCar races for over thirty years. Apparently, she suddenly fell ill in Toronto last weekend and passed away Tuesday morning. I never met Jenny, and to be honest – I had never heard of her. Chances are, most of you reading this had not heard of her until news of her death hit social media last Tuesday.

What impressed me was the massive outpouring of affection from all corners of the IndyCar world – not just those on the television side or even the media side of things, but from all segments of the series. Paul Page wrote a nice piece about her on Facebook. Robin Miller wrote an excellent article about his longtime friend on Racer.com. Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt were both longtime friends of hers. Practically every IndyCar person I follow on social media had wonderful things to say about her and how crushed they were at her loss.

I am an outsider to the IndyCar “family”. I know many of them and they speak to me very cordially when they see me at races. I am Facebook friends with some of them and I even carry on regular e-mail exchanges throughout the year with a few of them – some of the e-mails are not even about racing. But I am not one of them. I don’t earn my living covering the series and I only attend a handful of races per year. That doesn’t bother me in the least. I never expected to be one of them.

It was early on in my blogging “career” that I noticed the strong bond that existed between the close-knit IndyCar family. The family extends well beyond actual IndyCar employees. It includes drivers, crew-members, team owners, team PR personnel, manufacturer’s representatives and all facets of the regular media who attend every race and weekly press conference.

And why wouldn’t they have a strong bond. During the racing season, this group sees each other more than their real families back home. Each and every race weekend, they all descend on each respective venue usually on Thursday (or sooner) and sometimes stay until Sunday night or Monday. On consecutive race weekends, they are home for a couple of nights while working the respective jobs during the day; before it’s back at it again on Thursday.

It’s an overused comparison, but it really is like a modern day travelling circus. It’s mind-boggling to think about the number of on-site people it actually takes to stage an IndyCar race. There is no telling how many support people go to each race throughout a given IndyCar season. Each car has a team of probably ten to twelve people assigned to that one car. If that car is a multi-car team, there are many people connected with the team, but not to a specific car. Then there is the Holmatro Safety Team and assorted medical personnel that travel around with the series.

There are the IndyCar employees. There’s the Executive Team which includes CEO Mark Miles and President Jay Frye among others. Most, if not all, of the Communications staff goes to every race. I’m sure the same applies to the Competition and Operations teams.

Don’t forget all of the mobile hospitality suites that travel around with their respective catering staffs. Also there is the Indy Racing Experience, which handles the IndyCar two-seater program. Not only do they service the two-seater you see at the start of every race, but there are at least a couple of other two-seaters giving rides throughout the weekend, whenever the track isn’t busy. They usually bring a good size crew to service those cars on any given weekend.

Then there is the media. For most weekends, it is the NBCSN crew that you see on screen every weekend, plus many, many more working behind the scenes that you never see or hear about. That was where Jenny Nickell was – in the production truck, directing her pit-reporters.

I’m guessing, but I would bet there are at least seventy-five network TV personnel on-site at every race. That includes on-screen talent and their direct assistants, to the camera operators and the crew in the production truck, all the way to those that run cables every week. It’s daunting to think about.

Add to that the radio and print media that cover each race. The Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network brings their share of employees to each track. Then there’s the Curt Cavins and Robin Millers of the world, who are constants at practically every track representing print and digital media.

As you can see, the IndyCar family that travels to every race is huge. But given the amount of people that travel to each race, they all seem to know each other. More importantly, they all seem to like and genuinely care for each other.

The Saturday night before the Road America race, Susan and I were leaving the famous Siebkens Resort in Elkhart Lake, where we had just eaten dinner. On the sidewalk outside the restaurant was a nice area, where we ran into some friends of ours gathered together with others from within the IndyCar family. It was a mixture of TV folks, print media types and a couple of former drivers. As we stood and talked to a couple of them, you could tell everyone there was genuinely enjoying each other’s company.

Although it was tempting to hang around to hear some of their stories, I did not want to intrude. Most of them didn’t know us from Adam and we would have cramped their style.

When we go to races, I am amazed at how friendly and welcoming the IndyCar family is to a lowly blogger. I’ve always said that the IndyCar Communications staff treats Susan and me as if we are just as important as someone with ESPN. From the time I covered my first race at Barber in 2010, to last month’s race at Road America – we’ve always felt welcomed by all of the IndyCar staff and most of our fellow inhabitants of each media center.

Maybe it’s because I know my place and I don’t pretend to be a member of the IndyCar family. Going to just a handful of races each season qualifies me to be a friendly outsider, and that’s the way it should be.

I won’t pretend that I knew Jenny Nickell. I didn’t. But a lot of people that you and I are acquainted with knew her, and they are hurting right now. They should be. They’ve lost a member of the family.

George Phillips

Why We Want The Brickyard 400 To Succeed

Posted in IndyCar on July 22, 2016 by Oilpressure

No one should be surprised to hear me say that I am a racing fan. While IndyCar is my passion, I am still a fan of other forms of motorsport – including NASCAR. I’m no die-hard, but I’ll still watch the occasional NASCAR race. I have been to three NASCAR races in my life – two in Charlotte and one at Darlington. Surprisingly, I’ve never been to the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s not that I consider the race a sacrilege that invades the hallowed ground on an annual basis, as some people do. It’s just that I never felt an overwhelming urge to go.

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What Defines An Enjoyable Race?

Posted in IndyCar on July 20, 2016 by Oilpressure

Earlier this week there was some semi-friendly discussion in the comments section of this site on whether or not Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto was exciting, entertaining, enjoyable or any other adjective you want to use. Some said it was a boring race, while others took the stance that there was some very exciting racing going on behind the front of the field. Then there were those that said anytime there are fast and shiny race cars on track, they were fine with that. Put me in that camp, but I’m not sure that necessarily apply to the non-shiny matte black finish of Charlie Kimball’s car – but I digress.

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Random Thoughts On Toronto

Posted in IndyCar on July 18, 2016 by Oilpressure

Yesterday’s Honda Indy Toronto showed us just how fragile racing can be. From Juan Montoya practically destroying his car in Friday’s practice, to Scott Dixon narrowly snatching the pole away from Helio Castroneves on the last lap of qualifying and then to Simon Pagenaud losing a huge chunk of his points lead in the blink of an eye – simply because he chose to pit one lap late. That’s how fragile racing can be.

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Toronto Preview

Posted in IndyCar on July 15, 2016 by Oilpressure

Now that Boston is mercifully off of the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, we are heading into the last race weekend held on a temporary street circuit. Considering that I’ve never been to any type of temporary street circuit, my opinion really doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight.

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Which IndyCar Records Are Forever?

Posted in IndyCar on July 13, 2016 by Oilpressure

This coming Sunday marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of one of the greatest records in sports – Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six game hitting streak. Actually, Sunday marks the streak coming to an end, when the Cleveland Indians held the Yankee Clipper hitless on July 17, 1941.

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Random Thoughts On Iowa

Posted in IndyCar on July 11, 2016 by Oilpressure

Never have I seen a race so dominated by a driver, when I felt so nervous and so unsure of the outcome as I did in yesterday’s Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway. From the drop of the green flag, Nashville native Josef Newgarden took the lead and never looked back on his way to his third career Verizon IndyCar Series victory and his first on an oval.

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